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Inside Olympia – June 17, 2021

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This week on Inside Olympia, Host Austin Jenkins interviews WA Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF) Secretary Ross Hunter, and Lisa McLean, executive director of the 2021 WA State Redistricting Commission.

Secretary Hunter said his department supported the bill approved by the 2021 Legislature that emphasizes keeping kids in their families of origin, when they are temporarily removed from their homes. This year’s Legislature also provided the financial support needed for DCYF to carry out its tasks, according to Hunter.

Responding to media reports that foster children are being refused housing and other necessities as a form of discipline, the DCYF secretary said that goes against department policy. He said the department will look into any such allegations and will take corrective action.

Every decade, the state’s congressional (currently 10) and legislative (49) legislative districts are redrawn to account for population changes during the previous decade. A bipartisan commission of 4 legislative appointees and a non-voting chair must come up with new boundaries by November 15 of this year.

Before joining the Redistricting Commission, McLean worked on the 2020 U.S. Census. COVID has delayed the release of census results — the detailed data needed before redrawing political boundaries isn’t expected until the middle of August. That gives the commission a short time during which to present the proposed changes and hear back from the public before deciding on a final product.

Legislative and congressional districts must be approximately equal in numbers of residents. While detailed numbers aren’t in, McLean says they know enough about the previous decade’s population changes to know that districts around Puget Sound — where most of the population growth occurred — will need to shrink, while rural districts in more sparsely populated regions of Washington will expand geographically in order to pick up more population. And at least one congressional district will need to span the Cascades, from the bluer west side to the redder east side of the mountains.